The Lajamanu Community and Tracks Dance Company began working together in 1988 and has resulted in over 60 creative collaborations. The relationships built over this time are trusted and heartfelt and have produced performances that have become iconic. The Milpirri performances are a prime example. This extensive artistic, cultural and place-based collaboration has allowed us to explore the depths of what it means to be Australian, and how to interact with the idea of country. Milpirri was first staged in 2005 and grew from this collaboration. With Wanta (Steve) Jampijinpa Patrick as the Creative Director, Tim Newth and David McMicken have been the Artistic Directors since inception.

1992 Lajamanu Kurra Karna Yani - Photo David McMicken. (l-r) all cast including Traditional Yawulyu Dancers: Myra Nungarrayi Herbert (Patrick), Jean Napurrula Birrel, Alice Napaljarri Kelly, Rosie Napurrula Tasman, Judy Napaljarri Walker, Lily Nungarrayi Hargraves, Molly Napurrula Tasman, Maggie Napangardi, Maisie Napangardi Granites, Peggy Napaljarri Rockman, Biddy Napanangka Walker.

Bilingual - Bicultural

Jerry Jangala. Photo Duane Preston

"Milpirri is a bilingual, bicultural event designed to bring Yapa (Warlpiri, Aboriginal people) and Kardiya (non-Warlpiri, non-Aboriginal people) together to “enliven tradition for an intercultural twenty-first-century future”. - Steve Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick.

Milpirri combines the energy of youth and the wisdom of the old, gaining a fuller understanding of Warlpiri and Western ways of learning, making people feel good about who they are and where they live - in Lajamanu. Sadly growing from a youth suicide in Lajamanu, Milpirri importantly works towards giving people a strong sense of belonging in times of rapid and uncertain change.

Milpirri draws from extensive Warlpiri knowledge systems and explores the connection to country and to each other, revealing how pathways for better living can be drawn from understanding and observing the world around you. The ceremonial dance in Milpirri is more than a reenactment of the ancestral beings' journeys. Through dance, the performers reconnect and channel the power of these sacred beings and reaffirm their strength and relevance today.

Dr Jennifer Biddle, University of NSW described the Milpirri performance relationship as “One of the most successful community arts collaborations today, modelling new trajectories for the arts industry and professional partnership ... It remains radically site-specific.”

What does Milpirri mean?

Kinship - A Cultural Birthright

Photo Peter Eve

Recognising that young people in Lajamanu today could lose their cultural knowledge birthright, senior people in the community decided to encourage children to become part of a community celebration using contemporary dance as a way of inspiring their interest and allowing them to show off their dance skills.

Milpirri developed a four-colour system to represent a complex kinship (skin) system. These colours follow through into the costume, banners, artefacts and even more broadly.

The four colour groups

The Whole Community

Milpirri 2012. Photo Peter Eve. (l-r) Rosie Napurrula Tasman

Milpirri continues to have an enormous effect on the community. In the lead-up to Milpirri performances, teachers report a higher level of engagement with the children as Warlpiri cultural concepts are integrated into the teaching program. The general physical fitness of the community is also significantly improved as children and adults become active in the program.

In Aboriginal health, physical health is only one part of the story. The whole community's social, emotional and cultural well-being is critical if individuals are to achieve their full potential. Milpirri contributes to this by involving everybody, and on the night of the performance, the whole community comes out to watch and perform.

Milpirri Dances

Tracks Dance Company Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

Tracks Inc is proudly sponsored by the Northern Territory Government.

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